Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Early Bird part 2

Another Friday and another early morning to beat the rush hour traffic out of North Van to Boundary Bay.
I had half a heart to spend some time twitching the Sage Thrasher at 64th but first i would have to wait in my car for the morning to properly arrive as it was still pretty dark.
When i finally couldn't wait anymore i headed out, i decided to walk up to 72nd, i wasn't after snowy owls this time, but rather their short-eared cousins.
Like every bird photographer, i knew where the hot spots were and hoped to get some nice perched portrait shots if possible.

No sage thrasher's presented themselves but i had to smile when i saw this bird on that particular sign, still not quite light enough but i took the shot anyways.



wasn't long before i started seeing these guys off in the distance :)

I walked on and finally arrived at the spot i had had luck at before and sure enough, there was some action.


After a while i finally got my big break and had an owl land on a post right where i was standing, being the only one out there with it, i felt a sense of calm and took aim.


Super happy with that shot i soon felt the presence of others coming, the owl was still perched and one fella was able to walk by discreetly to view it as well, cool.
What wasn't cool was the other fella that followed, he saw me set up off to the side on the dike and he saw the owl and then he purposely (yes, i truly believe he did) walked in front of my lens and the bird, which then flushed and flew off.
Needless to say i was choked, it's happened to me before of course and it's usually a jogger or dog walker, i cut them some slack but when the guy has a little point and shoot camera and looks like he too has come for the owls i have to say something, "hey buddy, not cool walking in front of a photographer and bird, you walk behind them, geez"
to which he replied "hey guy, it's all digital now anyways, what does it matter?"
"well you flushed the bird for one thing you @#$%! :evil: "
The other guy there, perhaps sensing the situation escalating into something ugly soon stepped in and first told him that "he's right you know, you shouldn't have done that" and second came up to me and diffused my temper with a friendly chat, he worked at OWL and was just out for a walk, cheers bud!
When i walked away i took the idiot guys picture, i half thought of shaming him publicly but left it at that, i believe in bird karma and he surely won't be getting any good shots for ages, i hope :lol:

anyways - rant over - i headed over to Reifel to wrap up the morning, as always, i'm on the look out for common redpolls and thought it was worth a shot.

First off i spent some time with the night-herons, dear old friends.


Later i came across a small flock of evening grosbeaks by the tower, last time i came to Refiel i got Pine Grosbeak, this time it was the Evening variety (actually, this year i cleaned up as far as grosbeaks go, and all in BC as well - Black-headed, Rose-breasted, Pine and of course Evening).


Bonus bird for me was this Peregrine falcon


I often see shots of harriers in flight and i love them as much as anyone but i get a bigger rush when i get one perched, they always seem in flight :)


All in all a good morning :wink:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pine Grosbeak

My friday morning was spent at Reifel, i got there super early and was the first person out.
The rain was intermittent throughout the morning but died down from heavy rain just as i was allowed in at 8:30am, rain cover on camera and lens just in case though.
I had no idea i would next run into a nemesis bird called Pine Grosbeak but that's just what happened, i heard a strange call i had never heard before and saw a solitary bird in a tree with berries, my heart told me it was my desired Pine Grosbeak and a look through the viewfinder confirmed it, Lifer of the Day!
Not a great look but i'll take it for now.
I assume this was one of the 2 birds reported earlier (monday) in a detailed Reifel account by a birder.


Later at Maplewood in North Vancouver i came across a Varied Thrush in the afternoon sun, got off a few shots i'm happy with.


On Saturday morning i headed to Whytecliff park in West Vancouver looking for Harlequin ducks (didn't find any there), found lots of divers in the parking lot and a couple of Black Oystercatchers, couldn't resist taking a few shots of them :)


Later at an undisclosed location i was set up low on a beach waiting to get some birds in close when all of a sudden 3 large dogs rush onto the beach flushing all the birds i had been patiently waiting for, after what seemed like an annoyingly long wait the owner came into view looking dumb.
When i verbally scolded the person for disobeying the posted No Dogs! West Vancouver Bylaw sign out front the person told me that "oh, well, i just live right here and always bring my dogs out in the morning", the owner went on to say that "just so you know, we are fighting that bylaw blah blah blah" :x

could have had some nice shots to post had it not all happened but, oh well..


Monday, November 26, 2012

Woody Woodpecker on Wood


The light was a bit bright on the beach for shooting sunday morning at maplewood but it was really nice to be out regardless.

Was surprised however to get a Pileated on a log, again (just like in April of 2010 on same log!), 2010 shots were sweet, 2012 version not as, but a privilege to witness the bird working a log from end to end anyways :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Citrine Wagtail

Audy and i woke up early Saturday morning and headed out on the first ferry to Nanaimo, ultimate destination Comox and the Citrine Wagtail, a far out of town vagrant from asia that has chosen a farmer's field and mud puddle as it's extended stop-over destination.

When i first heard of this sighting i wasn't that excited, thinking i already had this species in Thailand, turns out i don't.
Grey and Yellow wagtails yes and White even (seen but not photo'd) but no Citrine.
I've missed a few big birds this last while like last December when the Ross's Gull showed up just below the Okanagan in Washington state (lens was being fixed, for the first time) so really wanted a shot at this one.

Citrine Wagtail is a bird one might expect to find in Thailand in the winter but it's not a "common" bird, i don't think.
I have a Thai language field guide that gives it a 2 binocular symbol rating while Grey and Yellow rate 3.
The lower the number, the rarer, or something like that.

So, coffee programed to peculate the night before, we woke up at 4:30am, leaving just after 5am and arriving at Horseshoe bay terminal with plenty of time to spare.
I imagined that all the cars were going to Comox to see the bird, the cafeteria no doubt would be full of birders and the captain would come on the PA at some point to announce that the Wagtail had been seen that morning.
None of that of course happened, there might have been a few birders on board but our paths never crossed.

I made good time driving and we arrived at the location at around 9:30am, i had heard that mornings were more reliable sighting-wise and this was a good time to arrive.

Wagtail Congregation

I set up my camera and looked for familiar faces among the crowd, perhaps these were all island birders, i didn't recognize anyone.

I heard there was a guy from California in the crowd (embarrassingly enough, i later spaced out and misheard him being referred to as "Mike Toochin" and went up to him and asked if he was Mike when the real Mike was standing right next to him! - i've even met the real Mike a few times before in the field, never had a real conversation, but i should have known the californian wasn't Mike, it was a little funny because he turned to me and said coldly "No, i'm something something (i never did get his name) from California..." oops.

The Wagtail was not in view when we arrived as a shrike had just tangled with it, everyone had their scopes up in a tree looking at the shrike and i was like "uh, anyone seen the wagtail lately?"
Shrikes are cool and all but..

I took note of the arrival of Ilya, a lower mainland birder of renown, i was reassured since his scope looking would surely turn it up soon. He didn't recognize me but all eyes were on the muddy farmers field anyways.

I felt a bit foolish having left my bins (binoculars) in the car as i could have used them (and i've been scolded in the past for saying that i don't typically wear them when out shooting as all good birders should), ironic then that it was first Audy mentioning that she saw with her bare eyes a bird land in a different way than the other sparse birds out at the grass line and then my scanning through big lens that turned it up again.
Chalk one up for the photogs i guess LOL

"I've Got It!"

Where's Waldo?

The bird was so far out at the end of the field that it was pretty much just a blob of pixels, even with my 500mm f4 + 1.4x teleconverter on.

Here's where the story gets interesting, when we  first arrived we noticed a couple of hunters dressed in camo walking back to their pickup truck from the dirt laneway we were on, separating two fields (both for sale).
Later i saw more hunters coming back from being out in the fields, ducks around one's hips like a belt. 
I'm not even sure if it was a hunter or birder (or both perhaps) but at one point a fellow came up to the group and announced that he had just gotten off the phone with the owner of the field and said that since the bird was so far off in the distance at the moment for this day only, the owner would let those that wanted to get a closer look (i wasn't the only photog there, and every birder with scope had a camera by their side as well it seemed) do just that.
please just stay on the high ground and stay out of any muddy areas or puddles of water.
I was pleasantly surprised as i wasn't expecting to get anything other than distant barely ID'able record shots of this bird.
Some local birders there were hesitant and spoke to the fellow to get more info (and see if this was all just being made-up i suspect), the name of the landowner was asked and i guess the answer was the right one, the fellow assured us that he did in fact know the owner quite well and permission had been granted this time only.
At that point half the group that was standing started to walk out to get a closer look, and Audy and I followed them. 
The bird had a largish puddle of water between it and us so the plan was to ease up on the bird slowly, bit by bit.

In the end, we never really got close enough to get much better than this last cropped shot, still, so much better than if the "Where's Waldo" shot was all i had to go back home with, right?

The bird eventually got spooked by a Merlin i believe and headed out of view.

When we were heading out in our car i thought i spotted the bird on the other side of the field by the road and would later read that it had indeed been located there later in the afternoon.

For us, a quick jet back down island and we were on the 12:30pm ferry back home.
yep, that's how we roll, bing bang boom, getter done and all that.

She looks good, i however look like crap.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Early Bird at BBay

I was watching the weather forecast this week and noticed that the rains were supposed to come in during the weekend, i decided to get out friday morning instead (it was my forced day off work anyways).

I had hoped to get a blurry shot or two of the Cave Swallow at Iona but hadn't heard a positive report since Wednesday, heading out there first thing probably wouldn't be the best anyways, for i planned to get up at my regular work day time of 5:15am and just head out with my camera.

Since Boundary Bay was a blast last friday i decided to start there again, only i got there so early i had to wait in my car almost 1/2 an hour for it to be light enough to see anything :lol:
There was only one other car parked and i found out later it belonged to the lone hunter, set-up by the waterline, duck decoy wings flapping in the wind and his duck call going over-time. I secretly hoped that my movement out there would discourage any ducks from falling for this guy's blood-sport but at the same time i didn't want to get too close, for obvious reasons.

It was kind of cool to have the whole place to yourself, first time it has every happened to me there.
I saw a couple of great whites and was able to get some shots of a pair from a distance.
I was using the 500mm and the 1.4x tele and got pretty wet, crouched down on my knees.
One of the 2 birds i encountered decided to do a bit of flying around but the other was content to stay put and i was able to nail some shots, again from distance.
I've always wanted to get one of these (and Shorties for that matter) on a nice stump and this one will do i think.

Getting my shots and leaving with the bird still perched meant good bird karma for me as an American Dipper flew out of nowhere and landed by me at Maplewood later that morning :)

Images cropped, ISO 800, no flash.







PS, i never saw the Cave Swallow at Iona (did get a couple of blurry shots of Barn swallows though) but did meet a couple of nice birders out looking for it at the same time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Back at It

The company i work for put everyone on a 4 day work week again recently but i didn't really complain too hard, as long as i could get out shooting instead.
Now that i have my lens back from Nikon i was eager to test it out finally.
My morning started at Boundary Bay and while i saw human shapes prowling the shoreline off 72nd no doubt looking for great whites i decided to just wander the dike, i was super happy to just be out again, i had no target birds, it was all good.
I'll get the crummy part out of the way right away, for some reason the new 1.4x tele i picked up in May after the original one got crunched (in the bump that lead to my lens eventually being repaired) has now gone faulty - it reads dark, and it causes the shutter to stick when it's on.
Imagine my fright when i went to test my levels first thing and everything was dark!
After taking the tele off i realized that the lens worked just fine, and after fellow photog Raymond lent me his 1.4x tele to test on my camera i realized that it was in fact just the tele and not lens (as i initially feared) that needed to be looked at.
I have no problem sending it back on warranty (hopefully) no rush, as i bought another yesterday in the meantime :)

here then are some shots, all without the usual tele.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Golden-crowned Kinglet

American Robin

Tropical Kingbird

Rough-legged Hawk

So yeh, i think it's pretty cool that i was able to get a Lifer as well, the fact that it was a warbler made it all the sweeter.

I saw this bird flitting about in the trees twitching it's tail like a wagtail, my first thought was a warbler i don't even have yet - Palm Warbler, i wasn't 100% though and soon forgot about this bird as the Tropical Kingbird later put on a show.
Later at home i confirmed it with the field guide and duly reported it.

Northern Shrike
this guy was one of those "you just had to be there or you wouldn't believe it" moments :lol:

I went out in the drizzle today to visit the Clay-colored Sparrow in West Vancouver, this is the second winter this little sparrow has come back to the backyard feeders and while i was hoping for a shot of it on a tree branch i'll take this feeder shot (magazines pay for these types of shots too i've found).


The Grumpy Old Man

The grumpy old man rejoices.
I'm still pissed at Nikon Canada but whatever, life is too short, and i got my lens back.

A Letter to Nikon Canada

A Letter to Nikon Canada.

Hey, whatever happened to the email confirmations you were
supposed to supply me with??

I'm really upset about the way i've been treated by Nikon, it seems like every time i called i was told whatever would get me off the phone, last week i called a number of times (since i heard nothing from you) and was told i could have it on Friday, i waited around all day and was

told later by Nikon Richmond that nothing came in.

Today, after i made plans to take time off work to go to Richmond to get it i find out that the shipment was brought back to TO and now i find out that i have to wait 2 more days for my lens!

This is ridiculous, why do i support Nikon so much when i get treated like i'm bringing in a P&S camera?

My lens is worth $8000 and i feel i should have been afforded Nikon Pro Service at least.

If this is the way i can expect to be treated by Nikon Canada in the future then i will do my very best to let everyone on social media etc. about how lousy the service is at Nikon Canada, i am a bird photographer on the west coast and have always made a point of tagging all 7000 of my pics on Flickr, blog etc. with Nikon tags etc., have bought Nikon logo clothing to wear even and have always said only the best things about Nikon product but again, if this is how i can expect to be treated, then i can't say anything good about Nikon Canada again.

Paul Kusmin

Over 8 weeks for a repair - Nikon Canada is a JOKE.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I Love Boobies!

Well, as i wait for my lens to be returned to me (Nikon says it should be back in my hands around oct. 14th) (edit - they lied, it's oct 26th and i expect at least another week without it at this point) i find myself reflecting on the whole pursuit. I admit that the last year i have been feeling a bit burnt out, going hardcore for 6
+ years photographing birds i've outlasted other previous pursuits so that must be worth something.
I'm at my worst and also my best when i feel competitive about something, shooting birds "artistically" has been the goal every since i saw the work of local photog Glenn Bartley and others.
Maxing out credit cards and taking trips left and right the last few years to feed the unquenchable thirst to see and photograph new birds and shelling out the dolla bills for the pro gear or to repair said gear when dropped adds up, no wonder so many of the photogs i know are doctors LOL.

Not going out since the lens has been in the shop has let me reflect on what it is i truly want to achieve, doing "normal stuff" again has been fine but deep inside me i feel the birds calling me back out.
As Word Burglar plays in the background i think about the recent returning birds in our yard, the Song Sparrow that spends the fall and winter in the hedge next to the townhouse, the Dark-eyed junco's back again from where ever they go in the summer. 
I look forward to seeing the Varied Thrush again, but not quite yet for those beautiful birds.
Yes, i'm looking forwards to getting out again.
I feel like i need to step it up but at the same time keep it fun, most importantly, don't drop the lens again!!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Recent Birds

Not too much to report since last i checked in but i will say that today i finally decided to bring my lens in to Nikon again to get it fixed, it should have gone in a while ago actually and it seems like the right time now, before the fall begins in earnest.

Couple of birds from the last while


Pigeon Guillemot

one of roughly a dozen i saw off the Lonsdale pier last sunday morning.
My life was actually threatened while i was on the small public dock by a young fella who didn't like me sitting there, he kept saying stuff until finally i had enough and confronted him back, he backed down to my delight and in the end i realized he was tending to some illegal crab traps and didn't want me taking his pic (which i should have, had i known he was going to throw a broken net back into the water rather than put it in the garbage), geez, some people..

Checked out Jericho (and did a couple of uneventful walks at Maplewood as well) and got some shots of these birds



American Goldfinch



Warbling Vireo



a young Anna's Hummingbird that landed right in front of me and posed for a while :)

That's all (for a while i guess) :)

The Waiting Area

The Waiting Area